Nostalgia’s Not a Bad Word: Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath on Under the Sun and His Role in ‘Sharknado 2’

Today - 2014

“Do you remember the glorious ’90s?” Mark McGrath asked in Atlantic City on Saturday night, in just one of the many instances when he mentioned the decade during Sugar Ray’s short set. We’re told that if we like ’90s hits then we’ve “come to the right fucking place” and, later, are reassured that all the bands will keep “smacking [us] with hits of the ’90s” for the rest of the night. Coming out of anyone else’s mouth, this would inspire nothing but eye-rolls, but Sugar Ray — and the rest of the Under the Sun tour: Blues Traveler, Smash Mouth, and Uncle Kracker — are both refreshingly sincere and self-aware. 

There was definitely some irony on display in the crowd — devil horns thrown up in the air, a failed attempt at a “Shrek!” chant during Smash Mouth’s set — but for the most part, everyone was having a genuinely good time. The Under the Sun tour isn’t a nostalgia-baiting listicle but instead a fun “why the hell not?” celebration of music from a decade that seemingly never ended. I recently chatted with Mark McGrath about Under the Sun, his role in tonight’s SyFy Sharknado 2: The Second One, and why nostalgia isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Flavorwire: How’d you get involved in Sharknado 2?

Mark McGrath: Like everyone else I stumbled upon [the original Sharknado] last summer. I got caught up in the social media of the whole movie. Ironically, I was on a tour bus as well, and there’s a sci-fi fan on one of our crews, and he’s like, “Oh I gotta watch this movie Sharknado tonight in the front lounge” and we’re like, “Oh, you enjoy that, dude, we’re gonna go in the back lounge and watch Goodfellas for the thousandth time.” I’ve never been a sci-fi guy. … Needless to say, halfway through the movie, he was yelling and screaming so much, all this excitement is coming from the lounge, and all of a sudden we’re all highly involved. We’re yelling at the TV, we’re yelling at Ian [Ziering]’s character, we’re tweeting, we’re social media-ing, we’re texting each other. I’m like, “Is everybody watching this?”

There’s just a certain charm to these movies that’s necessary by not winking at the camera or being in on the joke. When somebody does bad karaoke, it’s funny for five seconds. Good karaoke’s compelling because there is a quality to the singing. That’s how I can kinda compare this. I know you were asking me how I got involved and I’m going a long way around…

No, this is great because I loved Sharknado so much.

Sharknado, it just took off. It resonated with me, it resonated with the American public, it was a social media phenomenon, [and] then it died down. Then I got a call last January, “Mark would you like to make a cameo? They’re making Sharknado 2.” And I almost died. Because the first thing I could think of was, “Oh my God, I can’t wait to tell my friends.” When I said it to them, it was like I was in a Scorsese movie — literally that’s how excited people are. And so I read the script and I thought I’d have a five-second cameo. I’d walk in, I’d get eaten by a shark, and that’d be it or something. I got the script, I’m in it top to bottom! They obviously hadn’t seen me act before or they wouldn’t have given me that much space in a role. And I was honored. I kinda got scared. I got a little anxiety in my gut. It’s Sharknado; we’re not going to the Daniel Day-Lewis School of Acting here, but you’ve gotta push the movie along. Ian and Vivica [A. Fox] and Kari [Wuhrer] — these are people who have been acting for a long time. It’s what they do. I mean, I’ve been acting like a singer for a long time, but I haven’t done it in a theatrical sense.

I said, “Of course I’m in. How could I pass up the opportunity to be in Sharknado 2?” It was a double whammy and a great thrill and opportunity for me to have a part in a real movie…. It was great. The only problem was that we filmed it during the coldest winter in the history of New York.

This winter was terrible. It was never-ending.

It was insane! And this movie takes place in the spring. I mean, you were there, but we were going out there in short sleeves and we couldn’t go more than five minutes without getting frostbite or pneumonia. I give a lot of credit to the crew and everyone involved in Sharknado who wasn’t on the screen because they were the ones putting in 16-hour days to make sure we felt comfortable. This isn’t the most big-budgeted Hollywood blockbuster movie. You’ve got to make things happen on the fly. And we had a hardworking crew and staff and director. And Anthony, the writer, he was there every day, making necessary changes because the weather threw everything for a loop and you have to work around that.

Sharknado 2: The Second OneI’ve seen some clips, and it’s all shot on location.

It’s so weird when you’re filming the movie. I know the first scene I did was jumping off a taxi, and you need to suspend reality, obviously, as a viewer, when you’re watching these things. These aren’t $100 million movies with the best CGI effects in the world. They’re done for the genre and for the charm of making a movie by people who love to make movies — and people who love to watch movies.

So, here I am, in the middle of Broadway, on top of a taxicab with Judd Hirsch — Academy Award nominee Judd Hirsch — and there’s a tiny string hanging down, and I’m supposed to believe that I’m swinging 75 feet across Broadway with a bunch of sharks all around me. It was just surreal. At this moment I really got involved in what Sharknado is. It was a surreal moment when I was on top of that taxicab, exchanging dialogue with Judd Hirsch. It was incredible.

Do you want to do more movies or TV in the future? I know you’ve done hosting duties, but do you want to do more scripted stuff?

Oh, I’m hooked now. I heard they’re doing a third one, and I’ve let them know I’m available. I’m suggesting a tropical climate this time.

But I’ve caught the bug a little bit, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve started to do a little bit more of acting, I’ve gotten more comfortable in front of the camera. It’s definitely something I want to do more of. To keep it in that genre would be awesome. I think that’s where my talent lies.